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Bruins learn together with Harkness program

History Teacher Matt MacDonald smiles as juniors Julia Yoder, Johnny Calleri and Josue Hurtado collaborate . Photo by Jared Pittsley

AP U.S. History students came together as a whole for the Harkness program.

Harkness was an October 28 experiment in History Teacher Matt MacDonald’s class. Harkness is based off the concept that students can be more involved in class discussions. The program has students go home and study material that was given to them a couple days before. It was designed for students to come together for a class talk and to learn off of each other. Students gain more knowledge through sharing their discoveries.

Mr. MacDonald broke his class into two separate groups of students for a class discussion. They started out the Harkness experiment by having students make eye contact with one another during fun games. Some of them included counting off in a group, hand clapping and stomping to communicate, and playing the fairy tale game where you create a story and one-by-one students add on until the last student goes.

“I thought it was really cool,” said Mr. MacDonald. “It’s something different. I thought it was really cool on my own end of the class.”

The goal of the Harkness program is to engage students to be more involved in the learning process. Students are the ones in charge of discussion topics rather than the teacher lecturing the students.

“I think that it puts learning back fresh into students minds and helps use good strategies in that particular class or subject,” said Mr. MacDonald. “It helps add something new to a conversation and challenging new ideas that come about. Just in general, the speaking and writing standards should change to hear students individually.”

Harkness was also designed for students to have a more enjoyable atmosphere and learning experience.  

“It was a positive and negative perspective because we would be more torn because of people who do their homework and what we get out of the lesson,” said Rachel Setting, a junior. “My least favorite part was probably the awkwardness in the beginning with the eye contact activities.”

“I agree with Rachel, because it’s hard to work up the courage to talk to students and it’s hard for some people like myself in particular,” said Lindsey Stafford, a junior.

According to students, not everyone took the exercise seriously.

“I didn’t like how there were some people who didn’t react and how they blew them off,” said Bella Batula, a junior. “I did enjoy the program though and I thought it was very reassuring seeing my classmates participate and grow from one another.”

The students weighed in on whether the Harkness program would be beneficial for the school. 

“I think that the program was useful and I believe the program will be more beneficial for Bear River in the long run,” said Stafford. “I think that I enjoyed listening to people’s opinions and seeing how they are like me and how they are different. I would like Harkness to be apart of our school.”

“The fact that everyone was listening to each other was my favorite part,” said Setting. “I think that it should as long as the teacher is more apart of the program and the group conversations.”

“I like how everyone was included and how the table was a good aspect for everyone involved was able to apart of the conversation,” said Batula. “I definitely agree with Harkness being at Bear River. I think it would benefit a lot of different classes and bringing students together as a whole.”

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Bruins learn together with Harkness program